Efficacy and safety of ursodeoxycholic acid versus cholestyramine in intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy

Gastroenterology. 2005 Sep;129(3):894-901. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2005.06.019.


Background & aims: Treatment of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy with ursodeoxycholic acid appears promising, but data are limited so far. The aim of this randomized study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ursodeoxycholic acid in comparison with cholestyramine.

Methods: Eighty-four symptomatic patients with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy were randomized to receive either ursodeoxycholic acid, 8-10 mg/kg body weight daily (n = 42), or cholestyramine, 8 g daily (n = 42), for 14 days. The primary end point was a reduction of pruritus by more than 50% after 14 days of treatment as evaluated by a pruritus score. Secondary end points were outcome of pregnancy, reduction of serum aminotransferase activities and serum bile acid levels, and drug safety. Intention-to-treat analysis was applied.

Results: Pruritus was more effectively reduced by ursodeoxycholic acid than cholestyramine (66.6% vs 19.0%, respectively; P < .005). Babies were delivered significantly closer to term by patients treated with ursodeoxycholic acid than those treated with cholestyramine (38.7 +/- 1.7 vs 37.4 +/- 1.5 weeks, respectively, P < .05). Serum alanine and aspartate aminotransferase activities were markedly reduced by 78.5% and 73.8%, respectively, after ursodeoxycholic acid, but by only 21.4%, each, after cholestyramine therapy (P < .01 vs ursodeoxycholic acid). Endogenous serum bile acid levels decreased by 59.5% and 19.0%, respectively (P < .02). Ursodeoxycholic acid, but not cholestyramine was free of adverse effects.

Conclusions: Ursodeoxycholic acid is safe and more effective than cholestyramine in intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bile Acids and Salts / blood
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics / therapeutic use*
  • Cholestasis, Intrahepatic / drug therapy*
  • Cholestyramine Resin / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pruritus / drug therapy
  • Pruritus / physiopathology
  • Recurrence
  • Safety
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / therapeutic use*


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics
  • Cholestyramine Resin
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid